Mark Steele, MPP
DA KZN Alternate Spokesperson on Health
NEHAWU’s call for KZN Health HOD Zungu to resign must be seen in the context of calls by other COSATU-affiliated unions for Ministers and HOD’s to resign where the union has not been successful in achieving its particular objectives.
The SADTU protest against Minister Angie Motshekga and her HOD is a case in point. COSATU, and by implication NEHAWU are merely flexing their muscles as a prelude to wage negotiations within the public service and to ongoing efforts to produce special benefits for their members employed by government.
In the case of the KZN DOH, there is an extremely high vacancy rate in some critical areas. For example;
- As per the 2011/12 annual report, the department was short of over 1 000 permanent medical specialists (a 64% vacancy rate) and had a 35% vacancy rate for permanent medical practitioners
- For professional nurses there was a 22% vacancy rate
Clearly, filling these posts would have a huge and beneficial effect on the delivery of quality public health services to the people of KZN. However, whether the HOD alone should be held responsible is debatable. At a political level it is the MEC for Health that must account to the people of KZN for the many instances where patients are not receiving quality care, for the simple reason that there are not enough staff.
During the course of this year, the DOH has made u-turns in three important areas of service delivery and financial planning. For these, the HOD for Health must be held responsible for the quality of advice provided to the MEC. The three examples are;
- Proposed closure of Mc Cords hospital which was subsequently reversed with the takeover of Mc Cords by the province
- Proposed termination of the subsidy to the Pongola hospital, which was subsequently deferred and the subsidy reinstated
- The decision to terminate the funding for the company responsible for maintaining the oncology equipment at Addington, which was subsequently reversed so that patient services could resume.
All of these examples point to a failure by the senior management for which the MEC must be held accountable.
Strike action which negatively affects the rights of patients to proper care and attention must however be deplored and NEHAWU must take responsibility for the conduct of its members.